At a recent meeting, the Las Vegas City Schools board closed its doors to discuss “school matters.”
That reason was given in addition to the usual justifications for closed meetings such as personnel issues and litigation.
But the state Open Meetings Act makes no exception for school matters. Indeed, any business that a school board would discuss could conceivably fall under the subject of school matters.
After that meeting, the school board said it followed state law and kept its discussions to the limited subjects allowed under the Open Meetings Act.
At a more recent meeting, board President Ramon “Swoops” Montaño said the public should know more about what is discussed behind closed doors. He said right now board members could be seen as talking about hiring relatives and friends, and he wants that perception to end.
“Sometimes there are legal issues that come to us that, by law, we have to discuss in executive session,” Montaño said. “But we are allowed to get a little more in detail when entering executive sessions than what we have in the past. We don’t want to leave the impression that we’re back there trying to hire my brother.”
Superintendent Rick Romero said he has had conversations with the school district’s attorney regarding the reasons and what the board can tell the pubic when closing the doors to them.
“It should be, to a fair degree, quite descriptive, on why you’re going into executive session. I think it needs to be decided in advance, so that it is documented clearly on the agenda, and that we go into executive session for that purpose only,” Romero said.
Board member Patrick Romero said there should be some degree of specificity, but he wondered how detailed the board should be when talking about hirings and personnel.
“You can’t talk about individual names, but you can refer to the types of positions, you can be specific to that degree. You can’t use names because that violates their civil rights. But it should be specific to whatever the issue is we are discussing,” he said.
Member Romero asked, “So if we are having a discussion on litigation, what would you say is the reason for going into executive session?”
“We would say we are going into executive session in reference to personnel issues regarding whatever issue it is. It is hard, but we will work through our attorneys,” Superintendent Romero said. “So I think we are on the right track, Mr. President.”
Montaño said he knows, as president of the state school boards association, that other districts are looking into this issue because often school board members think they can talk about anything they want when the doors are closed.